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Title: Trade unions and the political culture of the British Labour Party, 1931-1940
Author: Parker, James Michael Trevor
ISNI:       0000 0004 7231 8210
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2017
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The events surrounding the collapse of the second Labour government in the summer of 1931 represented a watershed in twentieth century British politics. They brought to a close the ‘uneasy equilibrium’ which had characterised the country’s political life since 1918, ensconcing a Conservative-dominated National government in power for the remainder of a decade marked by continuing economic uncertainty and the mounting threat of war. They also precipitated a crisis of political identity within the Labour party. Deprived of the founding generation of its leadership and with its parliamentary strength decimated, the ‘gradualist’ approach which had long characterised its politics was seemingly left in tatters. Yet Labour returned to office in 1940 as a key partner in the wartime coalition; in 1945, it secured a sweeping electoral landslide of its own, allowing it to implement much of its traditional programme. It is the contention of this thesis that the party’s recovery during the 1930s was made possible by the crucial contribution of the trade unions. With Labour’s political leadership substantially weakened after 1931, the unions assumed a pivotal role in shaping the party’s direction, to the extent that by 1940, its political culture, organisation and policy had been decisively remade. The identity which developed in these years continued to characterise Labour’s politics for a generation, through the ‘high tide’ of the 1945 Attlee government, into the 1950s and beyond. This was a hugely significant and underappreciated achievement in the context of the destruction of labour movements that attended the retreat of political democracy across much of Europe during the 1930s. This thesis seeks to investigate and understand the crucial contribution of the trade unions to this redevelopment of Labour’s political culture through an exploration of key aspects of the party’s organisation in the period 1931-1940.
Supervisor: Thorpe, Andrew ; Toye, Richard Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available